March 27, 2014

U.S. demands sharp rise in price of F-15K’s sensor parts

The United States has demanded that South Korea accept a six-fold increase in the purchase price of F-15K’s night sensors, citing discontinued production, a senior defense ministry official said Thursday.The South Korean Air Force currently operates 60 F-15K Slam Eagles acquired from U.S. aerospace contractor Boeing through two deals in 2002 and 2008. It received the last jet in 2012.

Lockheed Martin installed 10 Tiger Eye sensor suites in the first batch of 10 jets in 2009 to help them fly at a low altitude in order to avoid radar detection and launch precision attacks at night and in bad weather. They consist of navigation systems and targeting pod devices.Although Lockheed Martin had promoted the Tiger Eye as the advanced navigation and targeting system for the South Korean contract, Seoul has been struggling with its maintenance of the discontinued model in the past several years.

“U.S. officials are asking for six times the initial price, saying the manufacturing of the Tiger Eye has been halted,” the ministry official said on the condition of anonymity, without disclosing price details price of the components.The U.S. had raised suspicions that South Korean engineers were illegally disassembling the sensor installed under F-15K’s fuselage, prompting defense officials of the two nations to launch a week-long investigation in June 2011.

“South Korea is the only country that still uses the Tiger Eye,” another military official said. “The U.S. officials said the price hike of the Tiger Eye is inevitable, as only a limited number is manufactured at South Korea’s request, though its production had already been stopped.”   Following the discontinued production of the Tiger Eye, South Korea in 2010 bought 40 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods (ATP) from Lockheed Martin, which have an enhanced laser designator and tracker for laser-guided bombs.

The pod features a third-generation forward looking infrared (FLIR) receiver, which allows observation and tracking in darkness.As part of efforts to handle the sudden price hike in major components for weapons, the defense ministry is pushing to adopt a rotational fund system to buy key components in advance if they are expected to be phased out soon.The ministry said it is working on details of the new system with a goal of implementing it next year.

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